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Weighting performance made our merit raises fairer.

Our laboratory seemed to have all the ingredients for providing effective performance appraisals. In place were performance standards, performance appraisal ratings, and an annual merit pay plan. In reality, however, there was no consistency among lab sections in assessing the work of our nearly 175 FFES. Worse, we had no mechanism for determining merit increases. Instead of providing employees with tangible recognition of good work and thus enhancing their performance, our system was more likely to demotivate them.

To reverse the situation, we formed a committee of seven to reevaluate our laboratory's performance appraisals. Starting in January 1989, we met weekly for three months and then on alternate weeks through June of that year. By August, when the personnel department had to prepare estimated raises for the following year, everything was completed.

At our initial meetings, we decided to polish and update employee performance standards. We started by tackling the difficult issue of identifying the major job functions of a " generic " medical technologist and proceeded to include everyone from glass washers to section chiefs.

Having group standards, we felt, would provide consistency between sections. In addition, we would not have to devise many sets of standards for our diverse and unevenly distributed staff. We later made subtle changes in the generic MT description to accommodate the fact that certain duties necessary for technologists working in chemistry, for example, were absent from those working in the blood bank. We grouped duties into eight categories: quality of work done; quantity of work done; knowledge of job; judgment and decision making ability; quality of relationships with others, including guests (the term our facility prefers for patients); planning, time utilization, and initiative; attendance and reliability; and behavioral factors. We then cataloged requirements for performing the duties of each category well. These requirements were incorporated into a ob evaluation form. In the form for a medical technologist in chemistry (Figure 1), the requirements appear in section 111, "Major job functions. " The completed form must be approved by the assistant director of technical services, the administrative director of laboratories, the medical director, and administration.

Our next step was to weight categories by importance. The percentage varies by job. For MTs, histotechnologists, cytotechnologists, phlebotomists, and radiology technicians, quality of work comprises 25 per cent of total importance, whereas it is weighted at 15 or 20 per cent for everyone else. All workers except pathologists were included.

Table I shows the weight assigned to each of the eight general job functions for 23 job categories, some of which include more than one type of position. MLTs and HLTS, for example, are given the same weighting values.

We defined a five-level scale for performance: almost always exceeds expectations, 5; usually exceeds expectations, 4; meets expectations, 3; sometimes meets expectations, 2; rarely meets expectations, 1. When doing a performance evaluation, the section supervisor rates an employee from I to 5 for each of the defined attributes, as delineated for MTs in Figure 1, and enters these values on the form. The supervisor then adds the ratings in each subcategory and divides by the number of attributes in that category for MTs, there are 19 for quality of work, six for quantity of work, and so on. The result is an average rating for each category.

To calculate the employee's overall rating, the supervisor multiplies the weighted value, given as a percentage, by the average category rating. Then the subtotals are added. All this is entered by hand on a computerized evaluation form (Figure 11). Determining the employee's annual merit increase is simple: The supervisor applies the employee's overall rating to a scale, also shown in Figure 11. Ranges allow leeway for activities not listed on the form, such as taking the time to teach a new employee or volunteering for a special project.

After doing the first couple of evaluations with our new system, we found that we had set the rating numbers so high that they would have prevented hard workers from receiving the raises they deserved. We dropped the numbers accordingly and have used the current system successfully ever since.

Standards attained. Preparing the data in this way allows us to provide recognition through pay for performance. Our system, which has been in place since August 1989, has standardized performance evaluations and merit increases throughout the lab.

The system could work equally well in a lab of any size. Someone or a group would have to draft the specific job requirements of every job title and then determine the relative significance (weight) of each category listed within it.

As qualified technologists become harder to find, retention has become a high priority. We feel that using a more consistent protocol has increased productivity, although we have not actually measured this. The satisfaction surveys that we do each year, however, have indicated widespread acceptance of the system. Most pleased are the section supervisors for each shift, who have found the quantitative method far more reliable than the purely subjective and variable procedure that had been followed before. n
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Author:Alcala, Anne
Publication:Medical Laboratory Observer
Date:Jun 1, 1990
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